About Us

The Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research & Education on Women, Inc. and its Uncrowned Community Builders Project

Organizational Over-view

The Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research & Education on Women, Inc. is the premier online organization researching, documenting and preserving the regional histories of African American women and men in Western New York and across this nation. Founded in 1999 the Institute will enter its second decade, in 2019, dedicated to this important mission.

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, Ph.D. and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H., Ph.D. founded the Institute, which was initially established as a project of the Women's Pavilion Pan Am 2001. The goals were to commemorate the history of African and African American involvement in the Pan American Exposition of 1901 and to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African American women during the period of and in the one hundred years after the fair. Drs. Nevergold and Bertram quickly realized that the magnitude of the project and the significance of their efforts to collect, disseminate and archive the histories of African American women and the regional African American community represented a major undertaking of a regional history project that required the establishment of a sustainable organization.

Their work led to the incorporation of the Institute and the adoption of the mission statement: "to conduct research on the issues affecting women of color, to use this research to develop educational programs that will enhance the quality of life for women and their communities, to promote the collection and dissemination of the individual histories of women, women's organizations and women's collective history and to teach and educate women on the use of technology to preserve and disseminate their histories." The Institute’s name, Uncrowned Queens, was derived from the 1917 poem, “America’s Uncrowned Queens,” by Oklahoma pioneer and poet, Drusilla Dunjee Houston. The poem celebrates “a group of tireless, selfsacrificing black women who worked for the betterment of family and community.” In 2003, the Institute was formally recognized as a 501 c (3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service. The Institute is governed by a six-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders.

During its almost two-decade history, the Institute developed and implemented an award winning website with its signature "techno-pedia", expanded its mission to include African American men, "Uncrowned Kings" and created a new webpage, Uncrowned Community Builders at www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com. This inclusive site has an interactive feature called the Biography Tool, which allows visitors anywhere in the world to upload new biographies and photos plus captions.

This Fall (2018) the Institute will reintroduce an idea first initiated in 2007; The Uncrowned Queens and Kings in the Wings: Emerging Community Builders. As we approach our second decade we are placing renewed focus on the recognition of young people between the ages of 13 – 20, who are “Emerging Community Builders.” The Western New York region has hundreds of young people, who are already giving back to their communities through volunteerism, involvement in extra-curricular activities in their schools, their churches and youth groups. Like their elders, many of these youngsters contribute their time and talents selflessly not seeking acknowledgement. They are laying the foundation for a life-long commitment to building and sustaining our community, indeed living up to the statement that they are our future.

The Uncrowned Queens & Kings in the Wings: Emerging Community Builders will document, preserve their biographies and celebrate these young people. In addition, we are expanding the “Emerging Community Builders” to recognize young people beyond archiving their photo and biography on our website. A scholarship program for high school seniors will be one of the new features we are adding. Educational programs are being developed as well.


The impact and contribution that the Institute makes to the local community is tangible in its use by thousands of individuals, organizations and groups from throughout the country. The site is used for numerous research activities, including educational research for papers, dissertations and use by history, social historians and others; family history research; as a resource for individuals’ obituary information; use in employment applications and for awards and honors. New biographies are added weekly and the archive continues to be updated as it is expanded. To date there are nearly 1200 biographies that span 150 years on the site. For example, nearly all the local citizens on the Freedom Wall at E. Ferry and Michigan Avenue have biographies in our techno-pedia. Dr. Nevergold contributed in August 2018 to the development of a curriculum to teach the history of the history makers on the wall by providing an educational workshop on the history of Black Buffalo for the 16 teachers, who are working on that curriculum.

The Institute’s founders have written four books and over a dozen journal articles related to the history of blacks in the 1901 Pan American Exposition, the 1905 Niagara Movement, the state of Oklahoma’s Black history, specifically, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and individual and collective women's histories; sponsored three national/international conferences; developed educational curricula; launched an oral history component; participated in a host of media (electronic and print) documentaries and interviews; presented numerous community-based programs to raise awareness about the Institute; established collaborations with community civic, educational, corporate and religious organizations and institutions; and worked toward the promotion and implementation of its model in other communities, beginning in the State of Oklahoma.

We are proud to say that our historical research into the legacy of Andrew J. Smitherman, a survival of the Tulsa Race Riot resulted in Dr. Nevergold seeking an appeal of Mr. Smitherman’s indictment for inciting the riot I 1921. She successfully argued that Mr. Smitherman should be exonerated because of his extraordinary community building contributions in Buffalo following his flight from Tulsa. The state of Oklahoma agreed and all the Black men, who’d been indicted in the race riot, total 58, had their charges formally dropped in a proceeding attended by Drs. Nevergold and Brooks-Bertram, the Mayor of Tulsa, the county District Attorney, the County Executive and the Judge among many others.

Read More

Programs and Services:

The individual projects that have contributed to the comprehensive programming/services of the Institute include the following:

  • Uncrowned Community Builders Website --

    The signature "techno-pedia" is updated frequently. This award-winning website is a digital repository for the historical assets of the African American communities of Western New York, Oklahoma and numerous other communities throughout the country. The website also included the histories of a number of women's organizations; and extensive history on African Americans of Western New York at the time of the Pan American Exposition and the Niagara Movement. The website has also been utilized for research, training and teaching in elementary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, as well as community-based computer literacy training programs.
  • Uncrowned Kings –

    After seven years of inquiries and requests from the community, the Institute developed an Uncrowned King companion project. The Uncrowned Kings initiative identifies African American men who were crucial to the development of their communities. While the Uncrowned Kings Initiative will also have a national focus, we began this initiative with African American men in Buffalo and Western New York. The Uncrowned Kings webpage was launched in April 2007 and was incorporated into the Uncrowned Community Builders site in 2011.
  • Uncrowned Queens and Kings in the Wings –

    This initiative recognizes the young people, who have already begun community building activities. The first group of young women recognized in this manner can be found on the website.
  • Uncrowned Queens Archival Program -

    through collaboration with the University at Buffalo's Archives, the Institute established a program to find and secure the personal papers, photos, awards, and other memorabilia of local African American Uncrowned Queens. The first collection to be secured and donated to the Archives is that of Eva Noles, the first African American to graduate from a Buffalo School of Nursing. Mrs. Noles' papers have been cataloged and are available in hard and digital copy to student and community researchers and for teaching.
  • Educational curricula -

    the co-founders, both educators have developed curriculum andworkshop presentations related to their research on local African American history; African American women's history; Family History research; lessons learned from the development of the project itself, e.g. "How-to's of self-publishing"
  • Media presentations -

    the co-founders have participated as interviewees on numerous radio/television programs. We have also taped many audio interviews with Uncrowned Queens and Kings that will be available on the website.
  • Illuminations:

    Uncrowned Queens Community Builders - a one half hour television program, produced by Uncrowned Queens co-founders that put a spotlight on the activities of Uncrowned Queens and Kings. The program aired weekly and was produced and hosted by Dr. Nevergold. The show aired on cable television and run from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2012 to 2014.
  • They’ve Got Stories to Tell: Conversations with Uncrowned Community Builders --

    this program is a reprise of Illuminations. Dr. Nevergold hosts the show which is filmed at the Apollo Theater. It airs twice a week on Spectrum cable’s education channel and on the Uncrowned Community Builders’ YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/uncrownedqueens As with the prior program, Illuminations, They’ve Got Stories to Tell is compiling a video documentary archive of African American leaders.
  • Publications --

    under Uncrowned Queens Publishing, the Institute's special affiliate, three editions of "Uncrowned Queens: African American Community Builders of Western New York" and one volume of “Uncrowned Queens of Oklahoma” have been published; in addition the Institute produced a monthly on-line newsletter that had a national circulation and over 500 subscribers; the Institute has produced brochures, flyers, newspaper and magazine articles and the co-founders have written articles for refereed journals.
  • “Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady” (SUNY Press, 2009) –

    – Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram – this awardwinning volume featured letters from one hundred women from across the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. The book documents the beliefs, hopes and reactions of African American women to the election of President Barack Obama and the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama. The book was awarded the 2009 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.
  • Educational conferences -

    the Institute has sponsored three national/international conferences (2001, 2002 and 2003) which addressed the issues of African American history and women's history; symposiums were held in conjunction with the State of Oklahoma's 2007 Centennial Celebration and the launch of the Uncrowned Kings project. As part of the plans for the 10th year observance of the Institute’s founding, a series of symposia is being planned.
  • Oral history project -

    the Institute received funding from the Educational Technology Center of the University at Buffalo to conduct a pilot oral history project; this project has established the foundation for a larger, more extended program, including providing instruction in oral history research. Five women leaders who have their histories recorded, transcribed and preserved at the University at Buffalo Archives include: Eva Noles, Thelma Hardiman, Garnet Wallace, B. Gwendolyn Greene and Georgia Burnette. Mrs. Burnette is the only surviving individual at this date.
  • Research on black women and men -

    primarily historical and focused on regional histories noting the individual and collective community stories
  • Bridging the Digital Divide -

    A primary service of the Institute has been to teach technology literacy, appreciation and understanding of technology in historical and community preservation; persuade the community to move toward technology for research and preservation of community history; maintain ongoing communication with the community using electronic email and website updates; encouraged comfort and reliance on technology and encouraged individual use of technology
  • Culture Keeper Award -

    as an outgrowth of its own mission, through this award the Institute recognizes, supports and promotes the work of individuals and other organizations in the preservation of African American history and culture.
  • Community Collaboration -

    - The Institute has a long history of building collaborations with diverse community, civic, professional, business and government organizations to accomplish its mission; promote and support its programs; develop and enhance its services

Board of Directors

  • Peggy Brooks-Bertram, PHD, DR. P.H., President
  • Barbara Seals Nevergold, PHD, Treasurer
  • Desiree Breckenridge-Jean
  • Dawna E. Jones
  • Linda Coppock
  • Danielle A. Roberts

(left) Peggy Brooks-Bertram, DrPH, PhD and (right) Barbara Seals Nevergold, PhD. Photo by Cheryl Gorski